Scarlett’s Letter December 13, 2013

My first full day home in the aftermath of those big things that have been clogging up my calendar, my focus, my free time and even how I eat, sleep and work out; travel season and the first marathon.

I feel like a freed prisoner. Liberated. I can resume life, the way I intend it to be.

Before I “went to work” this morning, I called my Sweetie! We hadn’t spoken on the phone for several days, and with his travels between Fairbanks and Coldfoot and my travels between the east and west coast, plus the huge time zone differences, our texts were even missing each other for hours at a time. The delay in text messages and the inability to talk on the phone left an odd and disjointed communication trail that I found befuddling and disheartening. It was heavenly to just sit and talk in complete and coherent sentences for a continuous period of time. It has been way too long, I really miss my guy.

I got a lot done today. First, I just sat my butt right down in my office and didn’t move until I had ALL my expense reports done. Over $6,000 worth. I kept thinking of Brian Tracy’s “Eat That Frog” program where he suggests just tackling the thing you least want to do in your day, first. Eat the frog first and the rest of the day is a breeze.  So I did. Yay! The frog wasn’t so bad.

After my expense reports, I cracked a beer open. Don’t judge, I’m still on “east coast” time for a day or two, it was much later in my brain than the clock said. Before my beer was half finished, I’d finished three quarters of my Christmas shopping, again, without even leaving the comfort of my ergonomic, Tempurpedic, office chair.

Lost Coast Downtown Brown, one of my daily faves.
Lost Coast Downtown Brown, one of my daily faves.

I spent the rest of the day puttering about my domain, upstairs, my bedroom and the other bedroom, which I use for my office. I broke down boxes and discarded packaging from mail orders received over the past month or so, I threw away the piles of junk mail and catalogs that arrived while I was gone and did a mountain of very necessary laundry.

DSW box, among others.
DSW box, among others.

I cooked my own food tonight. It felt so foreign, handling and preparing raw food, I was almost a little scared that I’d forgotten how. I made the most delicious spaghetti sauce with ingredients I had on hand, which were sparse. I ladled it over the last of the soba noodles in my pantry and, truthfully, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. The food was hotter than any I’ve had in a while, and not nearly as salty as anything I’ve eaten lately, and, the portion size was perfect! I have enough sauce left over for another meal, too. Like maybe lunch, tomorrow!

Cooked my own dinner. So yummy.
Cooked my own dinner. So yummy.

I was settling in for the night, big sloppy sweats on, big glass of V. Sattui Cabernet Sauvignon poured, and I as I accessed my face in the mirror, contemplating initiating an anti-aging regime and noting the obvious need for an appointment with my aesthetician, I remembered; I have an appointment for a massage tonight! So, I funneled the wine back into the bottle, for now, put clothes worthy of being seen in public back on, including undies, I am so going to forget those some day, and I’m about to grab my purse, my keys and my phone and go. I thought about postponing the appointment, but, I can’t. I was mayor of the Napa Massage Envy Spa on Foursquare, until last week. Someone bumped me out of my esteemed position, while I was out of town and unable to do anything about it. The nerve! I aim to go get all nice and relaxed, which should be just the thing for the last of the lingering marathon stiffness and soreness in my quads, and the post travel season shoulder soreness from hefting my computer bag around with its two laptops, Kindle, iPad and enough cords to reach to the moon and back.

All set for a relaxing night at home.
All set for a relaxing night at home.
Luckily, Donna, my handy digital assistant reminds of important things, like massages.
Luckily, Donna, my handy digital assistant reminds of important things, like massages.

And, I aim to reclaim my title as Mayor on Foursquare. Tally ho.

P.S. Odds-bervation – doesn’t it seem peculiar that my Apple MacBook tries to correct the spelling of “iPad”?

Scarlett’s Letter October 10, 2013

Make it stop. Please, just make it stop.

I have read, I have learned, I know, I teach; It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters – Epictetus.

This is what happened to me:

I may have had a glass or two too many last night. Yesterday would’ve been my dad’s 93rd birthday. He passed away about a year and a half ago. As you know, Mom was on her own for a year before I moved back home. We have our differences, but, somehow, manage to be close. I’ve been grappling with falling back into a healthy, happy routine this rare week home, and, admittedly, I’ve been a little out of sorts. I knew, yesterday, when she didn’t materialize from her bedroom until almost two hours later than usual that she was moping. She is more a scarcity mindset than I. I think abundance, usually. In other words, I’m the glass half full and she’s the glass half empty. So, last night, I filled two glasses half way, twice, and we had a lovely chat. The day passed without much mention of Dad, until last night. She’d had a glass of her incredibly cheap Robert Mondavi wine she can buy on sale for six bucks. I’d had the last glass of my 2009 Waterstone Carneros Pinot Noir I bought at their tasting room, Taste at Oxbow. I’d been to V. Sattui to pick up my wine club selections for September and October on Monday, so I decided to select one to open for my second glass. I offered Mom a glass, too, and, as she loves all the V. Sattui wines she’s tasted thus far, she accepted my offer. We decided it would be a toast to Dad’s birthday. With that in mind, I selected a 125th Anniversary special, the 2010 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, one of Dad’s favorite varietals. Our neighborhood is in the shadow of the Mt. Veeder District. I used to ride ponies from one friend’s house, over the mountain, to another friend’s house. And back. Fond memories, a lovely area, and a fantastic wine. Mom sat at her chair at the kitchen table, I leaned on the kitchen counter by the sink, and we talked for quite a while, about Dad and other things. It was one of the nicer moments we’ve had together this week. I was grateful for that.

2009 Waterstone Carneros Pinot Noir
2009 Waterstone Carneros Pinot Noir


V. Sattui 125th Anniversary 2010 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Mom's glass on the left, my glass in the middle, what's left of the bottle on the right. Happy Birthday Dad (10/9/1920 - 1/23/2012)
V. Sattui 125th Anniversary 2010 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Mom’s glass on the left, my glass in the middle, what’s left of the bottle on the right. Happy Birthday Dad (10/9/1920 – 1/23/2012)

After our wine, I stayed up until nearly 2:00 AM, writing. My bad. I forgot that it was Thursday today. Thursday’s are the worst in this neighborhood, on this street, in this house, and, especially in my room.  And so, this is what happened to me;

At about 6:00 AM, the neighbor across the street leaves for work. The houses in our neighborhood are almost fifty years old. Most have had windows replaced and have been updated, insulated, central heat and air conditioning installed. Not ours. It is neat as a pin and as original as a stock car from the same era. No after-market parts have been installed. The same old style furnace, no air-conditioning, and the furnace has no filter, just forced air heat coming from some dusty old relic underneath the house. The furnace makes an ominous clunking sound at the end of each cycle. The thermostat is the retro dial style. You can’t program it for different temperatures at different times of the day and night, you actually have to walk into the living room, every time you desire a change in temperature and twist it one direction or the other. The windows, all original, and, I’m certain, several layers thinner than they were new from years and years of being cleaned, inside and out, with drums and drums of Windex. They are the old aluminum slider style, single pane. Napa is a very comfortable climate, most of the time, so central heat and air, dual pane windows and insulation wasn’t considered necessary back in the 1960’s when these homes were built. But, with the insulation and the dual pane windows, not only is efficiency added, but noise is decreased. Like the noise of the neighbor unlocking his car, which goes “beep beep” when he does, every morning, this morning included, at some point before 6:00 AM.

Shortly after that neighbor leaves, his next-door neighbor goes to the gym. Before getting into his car, he walks across the street, collects the local newspaper from behind my car, in the driveway, and puts it up on the porch so my mom won’t have to toddle all the way down the steps and across the driveway in her robe and slippers to retrieve it. And I can hear every footstep. This man’s wife died after a long battle with cancer a few months ago. He has kept her car and, on occasion, drives it to the gym. This was one of those days, I know, because he hasn’t quite figured out how to unlock it with the remote and so, always sets the horn a honking.

Thursday. Garbage day. Garbage day cubed. This is Cali, this is the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco, you need an engineering degree, a flowchart and a consultant to figure out which trash receptacle each item from your McDonald’s bag goes into, plastic, paper, paperboard, Styrofoam, plastic utensils and napkins, which, somehow don’t qualify as paper. I’ve actually seen entrepreneurial homeless people assist tourists in appropriately sorting their trash in hopeful exchange for a tip. Kind of like the homeless folks at intersections who will wash your windshield with a spray bottle of something, piss, probably, and a soggy, blurred, newspaper. Napa Recycling and Waste Services is actually a software client of mine. That was a fun week, at the landfill/compost heap. Nice folks, though. So, meanwhile, back on my street; there are no less than three “garbage” trucks, maybe more. One truck collects the contents of the “blue can”, which are mixed recyclables including wine bottles, beer bottles and other stuff I don’t know about. This matter will be sorted out and recycled by type, glass, plastic, cardboard, etc. Another truck collects the contents of the “brown can”, yard waste, which will be composted. The third truck collects the contents of the “gray can”, which is just rubbish, the stuff that can’t be composted or recycled, and so, I assume, goes into the landfill. I don’t know if there is a truck devoted to the new “food scraps” project, which are being added to the compost pile, and, I’m certain, will do nothing in improving the foul wind that blows from the south of town where all this occurs. This household is not yet participating in the “food scraps” for composting project, so I don’t know the finer points and whether trucks are committed to the effort. At any rate, it sounds like there are twenty of them revving up and down the street, from one house to the next, revving again to power the mechanical arm that picks up and upends the containers. And they all have squeaky brakes. This cacophony all begins at about 6:00 AM and lasts half the day.

I mentioned, yesterday, that the City of Napa is replacing the curbs, gutters and sidewalks in front of nearly every home on our street where the city planted Chinese Pistachio trees, now all nearing fifty years old. The elder trees have roots close to the surface that have raised the sidewalks dangerously, broken curbs and even raised the street in places. Beginning at 7:00 AM the very talkative men in orange shirts arrive, they fire up all their dusty yellow tractors (backhoes and dozers, I know my Tonka Trucks), their dump trucks and diesel pickup trucks. One dump truck and one dozer just do laps around the block continuously from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM, with a break around 11:00 AM for lunch, I assume. There are jackhammers and other strange bits of man-propelled power equipment that make an extraordinary amount of noise.

So, by 7:00 AM, between the garbage trucks and the men at work, the noise is fearsome. Then, our gardener arrives. He mows, he blows and he goes. But we have close to a quarter acre here, all lawn and leaves, there’s a lot of mowing and a lot of blowing. I can’t even begin to imagine what decibel rating to attach to the morning I endured this day.

My reaction to just the street repair yesterday was not happy. I walked around the house with clenched teeth and a pissy attitude and I let every little noise just eat at me until my nerves were raw. To add insult to injury, Mom had the TV on louder than usual, so she could hear it over all the other noise. I felt like crawling into a corner, crouching down, holding my hands over my ears and rocking back and forth. I went to the coffee shop downtown, instead, and had a lovely day. I had planned to do the same today. But, for whatever reason, my reaction today was different. After breakfast by the noise of the leaf blower, literally, right outside the sliding glass door off the dining area, I took a nice, long shower and sat down at my desk to listen to a conference call for work. I got busy doing this and that, then I got to working on an article I’ve been trying to pull together for a couple of months and the next thing I knew, it was 3:00 PM and completely silent out front. I reacted very differently to the same stimuli from yesterday to today. Rather than let every little thing get to me, rather than foster the agitation I felt at the first noise and allow it to escalate from there, at some point today, I just chose not to react. I got far more done with a lot less stress. True, I would’ve loved to have gone to the coffee shop, and, in fact, probably will tomorrow, if for no other reason, because the cello player is there on Fridays. But, still, the point is, we can react to what happens to us or we can choose not to. The choice is ours. By choosing not to react to every little thing that happens to us, we are choosing to be in control. We are perfectly capable of controlling our reaction, our response, to everything in life, good and bad. Do you get that? Life doesn’t just happen to us, we get to decide how we are going to react, or not, to each and every situation and event that unfolds in our midst. We can choose to get angry when someone does something we dislike, or we can choose to ignore it and move on with more important things. Getting angry doesn’t solve anything, and, in fact, just makes things worse, in most cases, for us far more than our intended target. Acknowledging the situation, making a few mental notes, as a lesson for the future, and just getting on with our day is a much more peaceful and fruitful reaction and one we are totally capable of and in control of. Isn’t it cool to know you are in control of your emotions, that no one has the power to MAKE you angry or sad or hurt? Only you can make you angry or sad or hurt. You choose. You choose how you are going to react. Or not. Of course, it takes practice. I still get my feelings hurt, I still get mad, I still get sad, but then I stop and I think about it; what does allowing these negative feelings, these reactions really accomplish for me? Bad juju and a derailed day productivity-wise, and it certainly doesn’t change or remove the catalyst or source of those negative feelings, in fact, it further empowers them. The only way to render them powerless is to choose not to react in anger, hurt or sadness. Life is good, we are in control!

I had a two-hour massage tonight, it was amazing. I have the best massage therapist ever. I’ve had several, I know I’ve got a good one. First example; he is silent when he dispenses the massage oil onto his hands. Every other massage therapist I’ve ever had sounds like a guinea pig licking the roller in their water bottle when they dispense the massage oil. Am I right? It detracts from the experience, I’d noticed it, but had never really made note of it until I got this therapist. I’ve never heard him depress the dispenser. Amazing. I know. The rest is just magic, he has very gifted hands, and elbows, and forearms. He is intuitive, asks the right questions and really likes what he does. I know from talking to him a bit that this is sort of a family tradition, his mom was a foot reflexologist, so this guy, his foot massages are divine, nearing orgasmic.

I will admit, I am a rather tense person. My muscles are pretty much flexed at all times. All of them. I do not relax. Ever. I may think I do. I don’t. I’m tough to massage because I am always clenched. I try really hard to relax; I breath deeply and focus on the area that’s being massaged and with every ounce of intention, I try to relax, which is probably the wholly incorrect approach, but it ‘s what I know to do. I have gotten better. I have. But, there is this one spot, mid-back, right along the spine, more on the right side than on the left, when he runs his thumb down that particular area it’s like shock waves. I convulse, totally involuntarily. It’s something between pain and ticklish, but I, like, twitch and spaz out a little, sometimes my leg kicks a little bit and once, I almost farted. That is my involuntary reaction, and though it is certainly unintended, I am a little embarrassed. So, I try really hard to choose my reaction, here, too, just like I do with anger, hurt, or sadness. We may think anger, hurt and sadness and other negative reactions, negative emotions, are involuntary. They are not, we have the power to choose how we react to anything that happens to us. So, tonight, on the massage table, I decided to put this to the ultimate test. I decided that I had the power of presence, the mind control, to overcome this embarrassing, involuntary, spastic, convulsive response to focused massage on that one area that, obviously, needed therapy. It took a time or two, but by the third time he ran his thumb down that sensitive area, I was able to relax enough to not feel like I was being tickled and electrocuted simultaneously. The mind is a very powerful thing and it is open to suggestion. Make a suggestion, they’re yours to make and no one else’s.

I’m home now, obviously, all limber, warm and relaxed. I’ve had a lovely conversation with my man, far, far away, and as I finish up this little letter I am also finishing up that last glass of 2010 V. Sattui Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, the 125th Anniversary Edition. That is how I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my evening. Good night, all.

A Massage to Forget

I do love an occasional massage, I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders and sometimes, getting the knots worked out, whether you realize they’re there or not, brings great relief.

When you favor the most popular massage therapist at a spa, it is not always easy to book last minute appointments with said therapist. My work schedule is both crazy and unpredictable. I travel a great deal and often don’t know what my calendar will be like two or three weeks in advance. Recently, I had a totally free day, a true rarity, and I thought, “hey, a massage might be nice”. I called the spa and asked if my usual therapist was available. Not for a month, and when the laughter subsided, I was offered an hour and a half appointment with a therapist who was “capable of performing a deep tissue massage”, the way I like it. Great! I booked a time slot and planned my evening around it.

When I showed up at the spa, I was checked in and sent to the waiting room with my little plastic cup of water. I flipped through a worn magazine while the image of the fire in the fireplace flickered on the television mounted on the wall. In the background was the strange, earthy music. Each time I heard footsteps come down the hall, I looked up, anticipating being greeted by the therapist who could give me a deep tissue massage that in any way compared to the one my usual therapist could provide.

After a few minutes, after a few other therapists came down the hall and summoned other clients, my therapist revealed himself. As I sat in anticipation, I heard footsteps approach, they were both gentle and mighty at the same time. In the hallway, filling nearly the entire frame, was a very, very large man of uncertain racial heritage. Black, Samoan, I;m not sure, not that it matters at all. But for those of us bothered with details and observant to the point of obsession, it is something I usually at least make a note of. With a kind, almost timid voice, that in no way matched his size or the sound of his footfalls, he called my name and introduced himself, Tristan. My first thought was, “Oh my God, I’m going to die.”

I followed him down the hallway to the room I was directed, and obediently disrobed to the degree I was comfortable with, as instructed, climbed onto the table, under the sheet. There I waited.Before long, after an extremely gentle knock on the door, my gentle giant of a therapist entered the room. Based on his voice, his walk, his demeanor, I would guess he was gay, not that that matters at all, again, I just make observations about people so when I write about them later, I can fully describe them, and for no other reason.

For a large man with a womanly voice, he certainly did not mince words. He was very direct, at times almost blunt. He asked, forthrightly, whether I liked to chat during my massage, or not. I really don’t like to chat, but I would never be so rude as to say so. I evaded, but hoped to give him the impression that I’d rather just answer questions as needed, and otherwise, sort of zone out. I have been known to fall asleep, just a little, during a massage. That is the point, I find them both relaxing and therapeutic.

And with that, I found myself flattened out beneath his massive hands. then his forearms. I felt like I was between pavement and a steam roller. Deep tissue massage was an understatement. When he asked if the pressure was too much, I was rendered completely unable to respond, for I could not draw in enough breath to force a sound from my mouth. For the next ninety minutes I underwent the most intense “deep tissue” massage I have ever experienced. I would venture to say this was more of a skeletal massage. Tristan commented a few times, unabashedly, that I was incredibly tense, in almost a critical way. I’m sorry, but if you knew for certain that you were about to be crushed under three hundred plus pounds of pressure would you not tense up just a little? I won’t say it was painful, but it most certainly crossed the barrier of pleasant into something more like torture.

Having my hands massaged is one of the highlights of the treatment. Upon massaging my lower right arm and hand, Tristan again broke the silence and asked, in an almost accusatory manner, if I had any behaviors that required repetitive motion of my right hand. My eyebrows shot up, for this could have the same implication for women as it could for men, if your mind works as mine does, anyway. I thought, quickly, and replied that I do text a lot. That satisfied him, or at least no further inquiry was made. Thankfully.

Having never actually been crushed beneath a freight train, I can only imagine what it would feel like. I’d have to say, what I experienced on the massage table that day had to come close. I have never had an elephant sit on my back while lying on a flat, unforgiving surface, again, I can only imagine, but I’m pretty sure it has to be comparable to what I experienced that day. Nor have I ever been run over by a stampede of wild water buffalo on the Serengeti, but if I had to describe it, it would come very close to what I experienced on that massage table that evening. I swear I felt my spine touch my belly button on more than one occasion! At the conclusion of the session, Tristan recommended I have a Swedish massage next time, as it is firm, but not a “deep tissue” massage. Note to self, if Tristan is the only therapist available, Swedish it will be!

For the next week, I limped around like I’d been hit by a bus. I felt like Wylie Coyote must have felt after all the torturous things the roadrunner put him through on those good, old-fashioned, Saturday morning cartoons; grand piano falling on him, a one ton weight dropped from atop a cliff. That is precisely what I felt like.

No doubt, he got all the knots and kinks and tension out of my shoulders and back, but I was certain I’d lost an entire dimension in the process, now being only two dimensional, rather than three.